8 Things You Might Not Know About Drew Carey

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images
Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

For the past decade, actor and comedian Drew Carey has been emceeing the long-running daytime game show The Price is Right, proving himself an able replacement for tenured former host Bob Barker. (Carey even echoes his predecessor’s plea to spay and neuter pets at the end of every episode.) Prior to that, the 60-year-old had two hugely successful series, including a self-titled sitcom and the improvisational Whose Line Is It Anyway? Take a look at some things you might not have realized about the glasses-sporting comic. (Like the fact that he doesn’t really need to wear them.)

1. HE CREDITS SELF-HELP BOOKS WITH HIS SUCCESS.

Carey’s Cleveland upbringing was not particularly joy-filled. His father died when Carey was just 8, succumbing to a brain tumor. His mother worked two jobs to support her three sons and couldn’t afford to take Carey to see a psychiatrist to help deal with the trauma. Feeling isolated and depressed for much of his adolescence, things didn’t improve when he attended Kent State University: He was expelled twice for poor grades.

At rock bottom, Carey started reading self-help titles like University of Success and Your Erroneous Zones. The books changed Carey’s way of thinking, getting him out of his frustrated mindset. He later moved to California, joined the Marine Reserves, and began eyeing a career in stand-up comedy.

2. JOHNNY CARSON LAUNCHED HIS CAREER.

Drew Carey is photographed during a 'Tonight Show' appearance
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

While writing jokes for a friend who worked in radio—Carey again turned to books, taking out a joke-writing title from a local library—he began honing a stand-up act. Attending an open-mic night at the Sahara in Las Vegas didn’t go well (he bombed), but after putting in years of practice, Carey got two breaks. The first was Star Search, a talent competition hosted by Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, and the second was the Tonight Show itself. In 1991, Carey was invited to perform and appeared to win over Johnny Carson, a move that caught the attention of television executives eager to find another stand-up to build a sitcom around. The Drew Carey Show debuted in 1995 and ran for nine seasons.

3. HE DOESN’T REALLY NEED THE GLASSES.

Wearing black horn-rimmed glasses for the first half of his career helped make Carey an identifiable presence on television. In 2001, when he got LASIK to correct his vision, he no longer needed them to see. But because his persona was so closely intertwined with spectacles, Carey continued wearing the frames—this time with clear lenses—for work. When he opts to go without them, he finds that fans can be oblivious to the fact they’re talking to him. Conversing with a small group in a Cleveland night club one year, Carey told them he was on television and host of The Price is Right. “I thought Drew Carey hosted The Price is Right,” one replied.

4. HE UPSET A&W OVER A FAST-FOOD INFRACTION.

A drive-thru sign is positioned at a fast food restaurant
iStock

After signing a deal in 1998 to endorse the A&W burger chain, Carey found himself in trouble over his sitcom character’s preference for McDonald’s. In November of that year, an episode of The Drew Carey Show featured Carey lost in China and wandering into a Golden Arches location for a meal. A&W took offense and refused to pay the remainder of the comic’s endorsement fee. They also insisted he return the $450,000 already remitted to him. “I didn't eat at the McDonald's on the show,” Carey told Esquire in 2007. “I grabbed a fry off a kid's plate, but I didn't get any of the food. When I was in China, I ate at A&W almost every day. There was one around the corner from where we were staying. I like the company. I thought we had a good relationship.”

5. HE’S SHOT SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY UNDER AN ALIAS.

Carey is part owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team, but his involvement is more than just financial. Carey has been field-side to shoot action photography of the team and has distributed them to wire services under the pseudonym Brooks Parkenridge. “If I wasn't a comic or TV star, my other dream job was to be a photojournalist,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2005. “I envy [photographer] Carolyn Cole from the L.A. Times, and when I see Christiane Amanpour on TV, I think, ‘Man, wouldn't it be great to be her cameraman and be at these cool places where history is changing.’ Plus, being a celebrity, you always get good seats to sporting events, but you never get seats as good as the photographers get.”

6. HE ENTERED THE ROYAL RUMBLE.

The annual WWE wrestling event Royal Rumble admits one wrestler in timed intervals until 30 grapplers have entered the squared circle. While this contest is normally a playing field for mammoth participants like the Undertaker or John Cena, Carey found himself involved in 2001. Staging a sketch in which he raised the ire of WWE owner Vince McMahon, Carey cheerfully agreed to enter as the sixth man in and the first celebrity in the show. Instead of being allowed to walk off, he was confronted by Kane and nearly choke-slammed before another wrestler intervened. The comic went on to occupy a spot in the promotion’s Hall of Fame.

7. HE FOUGHT A DANCING BAN IN ARIZONA.

In a bizarre Footloose scenario, Carey came to the defense of an Arizona steakhouse in 2008 after local officials were targeting the open-air restaurant San Tan Flat for allowing dancing outdoors, a possible violation of an outdated noise ordinance. Carey dispatched a film crew to interview the owners as part of his Reason.tv series examining individual rights. A judge subsequently ruled that the establishment was not an illegal dance hall.

8. HE LOST NEARLY 100 POUNDS.

Drew Carey is photographed while on stage
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Known for his generously-proportioned physique, Carey had struggled with type-2 diabetes and heart problems as a result of the excess weight. He underwent a coronary angioplasty in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he decided to get fit for his son, Connor, who was born in 2007. Carey cut out soft drinks and switched to healthier options, replacing steak and bread with chicken and vegetables. Coupled with running, he shed roughly 85 pounds. “I was at a wedding on Saturday, and I ate cake,” he told Success in 2015. “I’m not a maniac about it. But 95 percent of the time, I’m right on the money.”

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

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